(Sen) - The European Space Agency (ESA) has deployed its first space debris test radar in Spain. The radar is one of a number of sensors that ESA is developing as part of its Space Situational Awareness (SSA) programme.
The test radar has been designed to monitor space debris at low altitude orbits and will be used to test different methods for finding orbital debris that is potentially hazardous to satellites. Early warning is vital to help satellite operators perform debris avoidance manoeuvres.
Nicolas Bobrinsky, Head of ESA’s SSA Preparatory Programme, said: "Installation of the test radar at Santorcaz is a significant milestone in ESA’s SSA programme. Fielding a ‘breadboard’ radar [one that is easily reconfigurable depending on test results, helping engineers to optimise its performance over time] means that Spanish and German industry are developing world-class technical expertise in the radar detection of hazardous space debris."
The radar has been designed and developed by Indra Espacio SA, a Spanish company which won the €4.7m contract to build the radar in 2010. Indra Espacio built the radar transmitter and sub-contracted the development of the radar receiver to the Fraunhofer Institute for High Frequency Physics and Radar Techniques (FHR) in Germany. The radar is based near Santorcaz, about 30km outside of Madrid.
The European Space Agency's orbital debris monostatic radar in Spain. Credit: ESA
The radar's design is "monostatic" meaning the transmitter and receiver are located within a few hundred metres. Gian Maria Pinna of ESA's SSA office said: "This monostatic radar will be used to demonstrate and validate radar technologies for space debris surveillance in low-altitude orbits."
The test radar is one of a series of instruments being that ESA is developing under its SSA programme. Recently ESA awarded a contract for the development of a "bistatic" radar where the transmitter and receiver are a few hundred kilometres apart. In addition to the monstatic and bistatic radars, ESA's SSA plans include a set of optical telescopes for the surveillance of higher altitude orbits, and the development of warning services for satellite operators.